First Day of School in The Age of The Virus

Yesterday was the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, an academic year that, for good or for ill, will certainly go down in the annals of educational history.  The build-up to the first day was a somewhat baffling scramble to implement new policies while also preparing to teach, but the day itself mostly ran smoothly.

Teachers possess an endless capacity for complaining, as I’ve noted before (indeed, a good chunk of this blog is me doing just that!), but also for adaptation.  We’re already amateur therapists, social workers, law enforcement officers, medics, and traffic cops on top of our actual mastery of our subject area.  Now we’re trying to accomplish all of those things while fending off The Virus with masks and one-way hallway traffic.

So, naturally, everyone was feeling a bit overwhelmed entering this school year.  Our administration has worked very hard to craft policies that we can implement successfully.  After the first day—which is always a little hectic and chaotic—I am personally feeling much better about the new protocols.

The only real stumble on the first day was the use of our live learning platform, which we have in place for students who elect to take classes from home (and for our international students, who are unable to get back to the United States at this time).  Fortunately, the first day of school is mostly introductions and going over the syllabus, so if there’s a day when Little Billy has trouble getting into his World History class, that’s probably the best day for things to go wrong.  A hasty after-school faculty meeting cleared up the issues, and clarified a number of questions that had arisen during the first day.

My perception is that, overall, students are happy to be back with their friends, if not necessarily back in the classroom.  Of course, in our “law enforcement officer” roles, we’re having to enforce one-way traffic in the hallways and social distancing.  I haven’t had any issues with students refusing to wear their masks, but the administration has made it clear that any problems are to be sent directly to the front office.  I personally hate mandated mask-wearing outside of work, but my job is to enforce the school dress code, which I’ve done for years (“tuck in your shirt!”), and if our school requires masks, so be it.

That’s all to say that I am far more optimistic about these policies than I was a week ago.  Granted, it is going to be a difficult school year for everyone.  In an effort to keep class sizes down, teachers are taking on more sections of classes than ever before.  Even with added faculty, almost everyone is working with a heavy course load this year.  Add a new layer of policy enforcement—one which no one wants to screw up because we don’t want kids getting sick—and it’s a great deal of mental energy to keep everything working.

But, again, yesterday was a good start.  The real test will be next week—our first full week of school—but we’re on the right track.

Just remember to thank your teacher friends who are working in these times.  They’re taking on mightier burdens than usual, and would appreciate your support.

(One small way to do that:  nominate a teacher you love for the chance to win a $20 KFC gift card!)



4 thoughts on “First Day of School in The Age of The Virus

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